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Rutgers Women’s Basketball: Scarlet Knights vs. Northwestern Wildcats

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights got back to their winning ways in a big way on Sunday afternoon, taking down the Michigan Wolverines, 62-41, at the RAC. Things won’t be getting much easier for the Scarlet Knights, however. Rutgers heads back out on the road for a matchup with No. 18 Northwestern on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. It will be the Scarlet Knights third opportunity to make a statement against a ranked team this year. They fell to both Maryland and Indiana earlier this season.

Head-to-Head

It will be the first matchup between the two teams this season and the eighth meeting all-time. Northwestern leads the series, 4-3, but Rutgers has the most recent victory. The Scarlet Knights won the last matchup, 45-41, at the RAC last season. Prior to that victory, Northwestern had won three in a row in the series.

The Northwestern Wildcats (22-3) find themselves in second place in the Big Ten standings, just half a game behind the Maryland Terrapins. The Scarlet Knights enter the game in sixth place in the Big Ten. Despite the gap in the standings, the two teams match up quite well. Northwestern averages more points per game than Rutgers while holding a better shooting percentage and three-point shooting percentage. Additionally, the Wildcats average more assists and steals per game than the Scarlet Knights. On the other end, Rutgers has a better scoring defense and shooting percentage defense than Northwestern. The Scarlet Knights also rack up more rebounds and blocks per game than the Wildcats.

Keys to Victory

Defensive Dominance: The Scarlet Knights have relied on their stifling defense all season long and are going to need more of the same on Wednesday. Rutgers enters the matchup with the 15th best scoring defense and ninth-best opponents field goal percentage defense in the nation. The Wildcats come in ranked 74th in points per game and 67th in shooting percentage. The Scarlet Knights shut down a much more dangerous offense on Sunday in the Wolverines, so they have the capability to do it again. Rutgers is going to need another dominant defensive effort in order to take down one of the top teams in the country.

The Paint: The Scarlet Knights have been stellar down low all season long, outscoring opponents by an average of 13.0 points per game in the paint. Rutgers has outscored opponents in the paint in 20 of 25 games so far this season. The Scarlet Knights are 17-3 when outscoring opponents down low and only 1-4 when being outscored in the painted area.

On the other end, Northwestern has excelled in the paint as well. The Wildcats have outscored opponents down low in 19 of their 25 games. They are 18-1 when outscoring opponents in the paint. Two of the Wildcats’ three losses have come when being outscored down low. Northwestern is a solid scoring team, but it is not elite offensively. If the Scarlet Knights hope to beat the Wildcats, they are going to have to be the better team down low.

Road Woes:  The Scarlet Knights’ biggest issue in the second half of the season has been their inability to win away from the RAC. Rutgers has lost its last four road games in a row and dropped to 5-5 overall away from home. The Scarlet Knights need to overcome their road struggles if they hope to beat Northwestern on Wednesday night. The Wildcats have been an excellent home team this season, going 12-2 in Evanston so far.

Looking Ahead

Following their matchup with Northwestern, the Scarlet Knights will return home for three straight games to close out their regular season. The first game will come against Ohio State on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the RAC.

 

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